Windows 8.1 available to pre-order ahead of the official consumer launch

Microsoft is now accepting pre-orders for its latest consumer operating system, Windows 8.1. The new release, which will be offered as a free upgrade to Windows 8 users through the app store, will officially go on sale later this month, on October 17 at 4 AM Pacific Time (that's 12 PM GMT for those across the pond).

The price of Windows 8.1 during pre-order is $119.99 for the base version and $199.99 for the Pro version, which is on par with what Microsoft announced the two editions will cost. As a result, there is practically no price benefit in placing an order ahead of the official consumer launch. Both versions will ship to customers as retail packages (the install DVD is included).

If you own a machine without an optical drive (an ultrabook, for instance), you will have to get Windows 8.1 up and running using a different method (installing the OS from a USB drive is a possibility -- however, Microsoft does not supply it).

Microsoft previously announced that Windows 8.1 users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro by paying $99.99, with the latter having access to Windows Media Center for $9.99. This offer is designed for those who will buy machines that come with Windows 8.1 out-of-the-box.

The upgrade situation for those using Windows 7 and earlier is a bit different. Folks who are running Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 have to pay full price to get Windows 8.1.

Microsoft also points out that the upgrade process is designed only for Windows 7 (however, users will have to reinstall their desktop apps). The company does not recommend installing Windows 8.1 from a machine running Windows XP and Windows Vista (folks should do a clean install according to the software giant, and perform a backup of their data beforehand).

I have reached out to Microsoft for a comment on Windows 8.1 pre-orders and here's the company's response:

As we've seen customer excitement build in anticipation of general availability of Windows 8.1 on October 18, we've opened pre-orders in the Microsoft Store -- with a delivery date of October 18 -- for customer convenience.

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